In July, the World Health Organization (WHO) included burnout in its International Classification of Diseases.

Burnout, the WHO noted, was characterized by:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job;
  • reduced professional efficacy.

While burnout can affect anyone, purpose-driven work is a high-risk contributor. “Purpose-driven work” – or work that people feel strongly passionate about – isn’t a term reserved for a specific field or area, such as medicine or not-for-profits. “Purpose-driven work” can be any type of work that elicits passion and focus. (Entrepreneurs and CEOS – we’re looking at you!)

Harvard Business Review found a correlation between entrepreneurs, purpose-driven work, and burnout rates. “The entrepreneurs in our sample, on average, said they experienced some level of burnout. But some were more burned out than others — 25% of entrepreneurs felt moderately burned out, while 3% felt strongly burned out.”

The Bottom Line

Burnout takes its toll – on both an economic and personal level.

For US companies, it’s estimated that job stress costs more than $300 billion a year in health costs, absenteeism and poor performance. But that’s just the tip of the problem.

According to a study by Umass Lowell:

  • 40% of job turnover is due to stress.
  • Replacing an average employee costs 120-200% of the salary of the position affected.
  • The average cost of absenteeism in a large company is more than $3.6 million/year.

On an individual level, job stress and burnout can be deadly – leading to heart disease, high cholesterol, obesity, and substance abuse.

Fighting Back 

Burnout can be a serious issue – both for you and your company. And summertime is a great time to reset unhealthy habits.

If you suspect you are suffering from burnout, the Mayo Clinic suggests the following steps.

  • Evaluate your options. Try to set goals for what must get done and what can wait.
  • Seek support. Whether you reach out to co-workers, friends or loved ones, support and collaboration might help you cope.
  • Get some exercise. Regular physical activity can help you to better deal with stress. It can also take your mind off work.
  • Get some sleep. Sleep restores well-being and helps protect your health.
  • Mindfulness. In a job setting, this practice involves facing situations with openness and patience, and without judgment.

And if you are leading an organization with a high rate of turnover or other indicators of employee burnout, start making changes – and lead by example.

The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) has many great ideas to combat employee burnout. Among them are:

  • Value vacation. Encourage employees to use their allotted vacation time. Run a report every year to ensure there aren’t any excessive balances.
  • Promote balance.  Don’t just promote work/life balance, live it.
  • Create fair workloads. Ensure that performance goals are communicated clearly to employees at the beginning of the year and reworked at appropriate intervals to meet business requirements.
  • Make the little things count. Make all employees feel they belong and are an important part of your company.

Do you have any tips for managing burnout – individually or as a company? We’d love to know! Drop us a line at